Alcohol Interlocks on Trial in the UK
Trials of alcohol interlock devices are currently taking place in Durham. Involvement in the trials is voluntary and hopes to reduce drink drive offences.
What is an alcohol interlock device?
The alcohol interlock device is connected to a vehicle's ignition system. The vehicle will not start until a breath sample has been provided. This is given in the same way as any other breathalyser, there is a small mouthpiece on the device for the driver to blow into. The unit will then analyse the sample and if it is below the set limit the ignition will start, if it is over the set limit the car will not start.
Rolling tests can also be requested by the alcohol interlock device. Once a clean breath sample has been given and the engine started, the driver may be required to provide further samples during their journey at set intervals. This can be done by pulling over briefly and blowing into the tube. If a driver were to fail a breath test the vehicle will not automatically turn off, the event can be recorded and other signals made such as the horn blowing and lights on the vehicle flashing until the engine is turned off. The engine will then not restart again until a clean sample of breath has been provided.
The first working alcohol interlock was produced in 1969, since then many countries such as the US and Denmark regularly install them to ensure those with a drink driving conviction do not reoffend, but this is the first time the device will be trialled in the UK.
Drink-Driving Law in the UK
- The alcohol limit in England and Wales is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.
- In Scotland, the limit is lower at 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood and 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
If you are found to be driving over these legal limits you could;
- Banned from driving for at least 12 months.
- Receive a fine up to £5,000.
- Be given between 3-11 penalty points on your licence.
- Be imprisoned for up to 6 months.
Will alcohol interlocks be required by law?
At the moment, there is no law requiring the use of alcohol interlock device in the UK. The trial in Durham is voluntary and the device will be fitted free of charge, but many countries are already using, or plan to use alcohol interlocks in the future. In France, any driver who commits a second drink driving offence from 2019 will have to have the device fitted to their car if they want to drive again. If they refuse, they will not be allowed back on the road.
The EU announced many safety features within a vehicle they would like to see made mandatory for all new cars from 2021 and alcohol interlock devices did feature. The EU would like all new vehicles to have the wiring ready should an alcohol interlock device need to be fitted.
Requiring an alcohol interlock device by law would need a financial commitment beyond the initial fitting of the device. The results of breath tests would need to be monitored and an alcohol interlock also need to be calibrated around once a month to ensure precise readings, so the cost of the device is ongoing.
Is drink driving a problem in the UK?
The number of accidents and deaths on the road due to drink driving has dropped dramatically over the past 30 years. However, the most recent figures available reveal just over 9000 casualties were caused by those driving over the legal drink-driving limit and of these 240 incidents were fatal.
Despite numerous campaigns, approximately 85,000 drivers are convicted of a drink driving offence every year, so more still needs to be done.
Do you think an alcohol interlock device should be a legal requirement for those with a previous drink-driving conviction?
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